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The definitive Populuxe film on 1950s automotive, industrial, interior and architectural design.
This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives
Producer: Handy (Jam) Organization
Sponsor: Chevrolet Division, General Motors Corporation
Audio/Visual: Sd, C
Keywords: Design; Automobiles: Design and manufacturing; Futurism
Creative Commons license: Public Domain
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Subject: How Do I receive the Legal Rights to this?
I want to use this in a documentary how do I get the rights?
Subject: The American Look
What's funny is: By the time the 1970's rolled around, you couldn't GIVE away the crap shown in this video. haha
Now it's all chic again, though.
...the telephone at the beginning is Swedish (Ericsson). And so much of the design is Scandinavian-inspired. I love the repeated "enjoyed by the American people" phrase...as though no one else was enjoying it. American navel-gazing goes a long way back, doesn't it?
Subject: Detroit Abandoned Harley Earl's "Styling Leadership" Paradigm Detailed In This Short Documentary
Sad but true. The bean counters and or financial treasury office administrators pulled off a coup and knocked out the lights of the designer and in doing so took all their power.
That's why cars America's cars became so unatractive by the time we reached the 1980s...Detroit, especially GM, was following Henry Ford's utilitarian prototype model versus the one they should have been on which was Harley Earl's "Styling Leadership" blueprint.
Look at the trains that GM Styling used to design back around the mid-20th century...they were spectacular. Look at the trains designed in America today...for the most part, we experienced going backwards in time when Detroit's Design Arsenal should have been chugging along strongly and cranking out not only beautiful cars at the end of the 20th century...but trains, too.
But we all know what happened...cause the truth has been scary...LOOK AT GM's DESIGNS today...they are not leading designs...but ones that are created by committees. And we all know, good ideas come from people's minds originally...not committees. Car design should be that way, too.
Subject: Great videos
This video represents the feelling of the styling in the '50/'60. It was very representative to me!!!
Subject: "15:06:24:00 MS Mies van der Rohe (?) chair"
yeah!! Is the Barcelona chair, from the architect "Mies van der Rohe",
Subject: Cold War Consumerism
ÂAmerican Look,Â which oozes with self-congratulation about Âthe basic freedom of the American people, the freedom of choice,Â was made in 1958, the year after the Russians launched Sputnik. This precipitated a crisis in AmericaÂs confidence in its technological superiority, which is reflected in the orgy of over-compensation that we see in this film. To viewers at the time, the array of consumer objects with the Âflowing lines and graceful shapes that we Americans enjoyÂ that reflect the Âease and grace and gaiety of American lifeÂ were meant to contrast with the widely publicized shortages of consumer goods and drab quality of everyday life in the Soviet Union. But, in the end, ÂAmerican LookÂ is nothing more than a build-up to exercise our American freedom of choice to buy a Chevrolet. In a 1940 Chevrolet film in the Archive, ÂLeave it to Roll-OhÂ (my personal favorite), Chevrolets symbolize the mobility and glamour that Americans craved after the Depression. In ÂAmerican Look,Â the Chevrolet is a static design object. The fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the automotive design process in Part III (did they really make a full size car out of clay?) is meant to show-off AmericaÂs technological egalitarianism and prowess, as opposed to the top-down ideological bureaucracy and mediocrity of the Soviets. By 1962, ÂAmerican LookÂ had degenerated into a later Chevrolet film, ÂAmerican Thrift,Â in which ÂchoiceÂ boiled down to a parade of women pushing carts through suburban supermarkets. How did they get there? In Chevrolets, now nothing more than a mundane means of transportation. ÂAmerican LookÂ ends with sleek, streamlined Âcars of the futureÂ parking at a corporate park. The filmmakersÂ vision of the future was one of beautifully designed consumer goods, aerodynamically designed cars and endlessly available parking places. The prosaic ÂAmerican Thrift,Â made only four years later, shows how unsustainable that vision was.
Subject: a celebration of form and function
This film is a celebration of form, function, and style, a perfect example of 50s style, including "Googie" style, which, IMHO, is one of the most aesthetically pleasing forms of design of the 20th century.
Steve Nordby -
Subject: A feast for the eyes still leads to indigestion
Jam Handy. Technicolor. Yow. At home, at work, at play, this epic celebrates all that is stylish in the products of American manufacturing. Only by part 3 do we get the real agenda: Sell Chevys! Yes, it seems the horizontal tail fin was designated as the Chevy coup for 1959. Cars will will be so much better with fins that go out rather than up!
But before we get to the Chevy design studios, we are led through a stunning series of illusions of image as substance. Extraordinary lighting, camera angles, and musical background make the ordinary seem magical and alluring. It is ultimately not about function or usefulness, it is about emotion, that we *like* the product. We don't care if what we see is any good, just that it is visually enticing and that we want to own it. The heart of the Jam Handy Organization: selling.
This film should not be watched without also viewing Jacques Tati's _Mon Oncle_: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0050706/
Perhaps the most annoying soundtrack ever! The music is cheery schmaltz punctuated by meaningless rhythmic spasms of high-frequency brass & percussion. This sonic nightmare is then juxtaposed with the voiced over non-sequiters to complete the effect. I dare you- listen to the audio alone without being distracted by the overy saturated '64 world's fair /lapidus crap visuals. You will come away most delightfully revolted!
Subject: American Look only
As a designer you are acutely aware of the flood of crappy products in our market place. You buy something only to decover how unusable it is, or how impractical in real life something is. This series of movies shows how optimistic America was about solving these problems at one time. Now people just want the newest bauble in a shiney package. Does anyone really need a palm piolet? What purpose does it serve? So people can keep track of pointless meetings with people they hate to sell the latest palm piolet.
It is hard to imagine the products in these films as "new". After seeing most of them covered with dirt after years of use in a dumpster somewhere, but they were. They were top of the line, highest technology, extreme examples of consumption. Like the palm piolet or the newton before it they will eventually wear out , become obsolete and be replaced by the next level of "new crap" we all must have. Such is life. As people we are born the "new " thing loved intently and seen as the hope for the future. We grow up, reach maturity, hit a peak then the next new thing comes along and bam! your in a dumpster somewhere covered with dirt. Just look in the eyes of any man over 40. Once the apple of his mothers eye, now subjected to humiliation on a daily basis. Noone wants to see him naked. A naked baby is ohh soo cute. But a naked old man is yeech!
(in a psuedo french accent)
ze circle of life, she goes on...
Subject: Great film!
This is a classic and rare chance to view an era that is still recognized as the peak period of 20th Century modern design viewed from the era itself rather than from a historical point-of-view. So much of the furniture see in this film by Herman Miller, Eames, Bertoia, Saarinen, etc., is still being manufactured and is still great furniture, not only because of how it looks but because it was designed for maximum comfort.
(full film) This great Jem Handy picture, (presented in 'Superscope' widescreen, whatever that means) picks up where the American Engineer left off, and tells us all about the wonderous stylings of America today. Plenty of weird and very strange dssigns, even for today, much less in 1958 are presented. Your Dog can have a Art Nouveau Dog House! Don't like the plain browness of your catcher's mask? Make it orange! Do you want to attract bears? Make your tent bright blue! Since this is a Jem Handy movie, soon all of this winds down to, of course, the design of automobiles. And what an automobile it is.. The 1958 Impala looks (literally) like a killer car with it's too sharp back wings and (yikes!) spikes on the front grill! Check out the building where the people meet who designed this thing, and soon you'll realize why this very odd looking car doesn't look so out of place. Reccomended!
Christine Hennig -
Subject: American Look (Full Film)
This lavish, Technicolor, widescreen film, sponsored by General Motors, purports to be a salute to "stylists" (read industrial and graphic designers), but it actually had an ulterior motiveÂÂto justify GM's annual model changes. It doesn't get any more "modern" than thisÂÂusing the word to mean both design influenced by Modernism in art and what was the "latest thing" in the 1950's. Images of one brightly colored, modernistic gadget or home furnishing after another are shown, while the narrator tells us how modern Americans (meaning attractive, upper middle class white Americans) are concerned more than ever before with the look of things. The people, though, definitely take a back seat to the "stuff" in this film. And all the stuff is shown as existing primarily for looksÂÂeven the items with practical functions are not shown being actually used. A few items are demonstrated, but only like they would be in a store, i.e. an electric mixer is shown spinning in an empty glass bowl. The film concludes with a "behind the scenes look at the design process", as we see designers working on the 1959 Chevrolet behind locked doors. We get to see that it was essentially designed by a committee and that the "best elements" from every designer's work were combined to make a composite that was supposed to be greater than the sum of its parts. This car was the one with the back end that was one big set of tailfinsÂÂit's hard to believe now that this was considered "great design" in its time, though it was (at least in this film). The incredible populuxe attitude that infuses this film, and all the examples of modern design, make this a real 1950s time capsule.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****. Also available on Lifestyles USA, Vol. 1 and Our Secret Century, Vol. 1: The Rainbow Is Yours.